IAF assassinates Hamas’s rocket chief in Gaza Strip

IAF assassinates Hamas’s rocket chief in Gaza … JPost – Defense.



11/18/2012 16:41
Airforce strike after morning rocket barrage targets head of Hamas’s rocket program, Yahyia Byya; Palestinian sources say strike kills 11 civilians, raising Palestinian death toll to 60.

An Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip

Photo: Suhaib Salem / Reuters

The IDF assassinated the head of Hamas’s rocket program, Yahyia Byya in an airstrike on Sunday. The assassination was directly ordered by Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz.

Army sources say that Byya was directly responsible for the majority of rockets that have been fired on Israel.

Israel bombed terror targets in Gaza for a fifth straight day Sunday, launching aerial and naval attacks as the IDF prepared for a possible ground invasion, though Egypt saw “some indications” of a truce ahead.

According to Palestinian sources, the strike which hit Byya also killed at least 11 Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip. The casualties included six children and three women in the attack on a three-story building, medics say. The house reportedly belonged to a Hamas official. Shortly after, another strike on a vehicle killed two in Jabaliya on Sunday, according to Ma’an. Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported that the number of Palestinian casualties rose to 60 on Sunday.

Rescue workers were still at the site searching for people who might be buried under the rubble.

The airforce has taken every measure possible to try and avoid harming Palestinian non-combatants, including precision strikes and issuing warnings to civilians. Hamas often employs the tactics of using civilians as human shields.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired dozens of rockets toward a number of Israeli cities Sunday, striking among others, Beersheba, Ashdod, Ashkelon and Sderot. At least ten civilians were injured.

At a cabinet meeting Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel had launched over 1,000 military strikes in the Strip since the beginning of the operation Wednesday.

Since the start of the operation on Wednesday, over 520 Palestinian rockets exploded in Israeli territory. A small percentage of those exploded in urban areas.

The Israeli Navy bombarded targets from the sea and an air raid targeted a building in Gaza City overnight Saturday housing media agencies and television stations, wounding six journalists from Iran’s PressTV and al-Quds television, a station Israel sees as pro-Hamas, witnesses said.

IDF Spokeswoman Avital Leibovich on Sunday briefed foreign press about the media building strike, saying “we obviously know there are journalists in the building, so we did not attack any other floor,” according to an audio recording of the briefing.

The IDF said it was targeting a “transmission antenna used by Hamas to carry out terror activity.” Britain’s Sky News and Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV were damaged in the attack. Journalists from Al-Aqsa TV and Iran’s PressTV were injured.

Leibovich added that her advice to journalists in Hamas-administered Gaza, is to “stay away from any Hamas positions, Hamas sites, or Hamas posts for their own safety.”

Two other predawn attacks on houses in the Jebalya refugee camp killed two and wounded 12 other people, medical officials said. According to the Bethlehem-based Ma’an News Agency, the IAF also struck several targets connected to the Popular Resistance Committees and Hamas’s military wing.

Medics report 539 people have been injured in Gaza since Wednesday, according to Ma’an.

More than 500 of the approximately 900 rockets fired from Gaza have hit Israel, killing three people and injuring dozens.

Israel unleashed its massive air campaign on Wednesday, killing Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari with the declared goal of deterring gunmen in the coastal enclave from launching rockets that have plagued its southern communities for years.

The IDF has since launched more than 1,000 air strikes on the coastal Palestinian territory, targeting weaponry and flattening terrorists’ homes and headquarters.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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